Elizabeth Vigee le Brun
Self-portrait in a straw hat, after 1782
National Gallery, London
In honor of Women's History Month, a week of works by fantastic women. Vigee le Brun was one of the most successful women artists of her time as well more successful than many of the male counterparts of her day. Primarily self-taught due to the exclusion of women from art schools, Vigee Le Brun painted her way into the French Court at the age of 20. She was commissioned to paint portraits of inflential people of the time, including Queen Marie-Antoinette. She was admitted (one of only 4 seats reserved for women) to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris.
While marriage and children often ended the artistic careers of women, Vigee Le Brun supported herself and her daughter with painting. Her self-portrait focuses on her status as a professional artist, her palette showing the colors with which this portrait is painted. (NG London/Painting of the Month). She was revered by both critics and fellow painters alike. When coming across this painting in the National Gallery (I wandered its halls often while studying in London) I always stopped to spend some time with Elizabeth.
Oddly, a lover of both bats and Vigee Le Brun dedicates a site to her... I don't exactly understand it but it offers much in the way of text and images. http://www.batguano.com/vigee.html